Monday, April 21, 2014

Eight Facts Your Average Autism Awareness Hawk Doesn't Know

For many, the concept of autism awareness simply means blue ribbons, light bulbs, puzzle pieces, and a culture of being continually perplexed by the “mystery” of their behaviors, despite the fact that dozens of autistic activists, such as Lydia Brown, Amanda Baggs, and Amy Sequinza have been explaining the purposes behind these behaviors very clearly for years.  What real autism awareness ought to mean is an understanding that goes beyond homegrown notions and ideas of autism, and understands autistic people in terms of facts and scientific data, besides just where it relates to causes, prevention, treatment, and cure, which in the last two decades, really have not achieved anything for the betterment of autistic lives.
                Ask even people with PhDs in psychology and psychiatry though if they know many of these facts to be discussed here, and they will respond with amazement or puzzlement.  In reality, the medical model for autism has not been very helpful to the world’s understanding of autism, not because autism is puzzling, but because maybe the medical model is not a very effective model for understanding autism at all.  This model used to be applied to homosexuality, before, like autism is finally being seen as, an integral part of a human being that cannot be changed any more than the color of one’s skin.  The new concept of autism, being a cultural identity as inseparable as being Italian or Christian, however, while its proponents can also miss out on some of these facts, generally know much better than medical ideologists of certain facts.

#1 People with autism are far more commonly harmed or abused by their own trusted parents and caregivers then they are by shady strangers.

The media is flooded with stories of autistic people who lose their lives in the hands of stranger pedophiles, rapists, and serial murders after going out wandering and getting lost, yet more commonly, autistic people are harmed, abused (physically and emotionally), even killed by doctors, educators, care-givers, and even parents and grandparents than they are by people who they don’t know.  Yet this is rarely shown in the media, except to applaud these people’s “brave and hard decisions.”  Loved ones of autistics who murder them are often given shorter sentences, even just a slap on the wrist, than parents, teachers, doctors, and caregivers who injure, abuse, or kill non-autistic children, saying their lives aren’t as valuable or will not be as happy or fulfilling, and these people are “putting them out of their misery.”  Karen Frank-McCarron, a mother of a four-year old autistic girl was responsible for murdering her daughter and was sentenced to thirty-six years in prison, with thirty months of supervised release and a $25,000 fine on accounts of first-degree homicide, obstruction of justice, and concealing a homicidal death.  Media coverage was later flooded with descriptions of Frank-McCarron as a hero.
#2 Bullying is far more than just the product of insecure children.  Bullying in essence is much more akin to the treatment of the Jews in Auschwitz. 
Bullying can lead to people (of whom autistics are particularly vulnerable) never leaving home for fear of being harmed, abused, or humiliated by the perpetrator.  Children (and adults) who do leave can find themselves the victims of great physical and psychological trauma, illness, and suicide.  During the Holocaust, Jews could not own property, had strict curfews, could not own or operate businesses, or go to school.  In this respect, autistic people have suffered from bullying the same way Jews and others suffered from the Nazi Holocaust.  Bullying can also be orchestrated and done by teachers, students, and even entire school boards.  Adults, too, get bullied.
#3 Dr. Hans Asperger was NOT the first person to discover Asperger syndrome.
Hans Asperger
Both Dr. Kanner and Dr. Asperger studied children who could by today’s standards be applied with the label Asperger syndrome.  In addition to children with Asperger traits, Dr. Kanner also studied children who could be given the label Kanner syndrome, and Kanner published his treatise, which later formed part of the basis for understanding of autism, Autistic Disturbances of Affective Contact in 1943, while Asperger published his papers on autistic psychopathy a year later in 1944, which were compared considerably to the work of Russian neurologist Grunya Sukhareva in 1926.  Much of Dr. Asperger's work and writings were also lost in the devastation of World War II.  For a lot of autistics, the terms Asperger and Kanner syndrome are considered neurotypical inventions that do not reflect the diversity or nature of autistic people.  There are in fact autistics with uniquely Aspergerian traits, such as Daniel Tammott, and with distinctly Kanner traits, such as Amanda Baggs, but terms such as Asperger and Kanner syndrome have a great tendency to oversimplify autistic people's unique and individual condition.
#4 Asperger syndrome CAN bring speech delays.
Albert Einstein, believed by many modern professionals to have Asperger syndrome, had speech delays.  He also had obsessive interests, the tendency to speak in monotone, and social awkwardness that usually tends to be characterized as being part of Asperger syndrome, even though speech delays more commonly are associated with Kanner syndrome.  Thus, one either has to admit that someone with Kanner syndrome can also have Asperger traits, or that someone with Asperger syndrome can have Kanner traits (both of these basically the same thing).  (Note: I myself had speech delays from the time I was three-and-a-half).
#5 Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) has a long, dark history of abusing children.
Unbeknownst to most parents, Applied Behavior Analysis used to involve physical punishment, based on behavioralist notions of punishment and reward, including shock therapy to the skin, for children who did not do as the therapist said, based on the idea of making them “normal.”  It was only when Michelle Dawson, an autistic woman who suffered from the indignity of ABA as a child, brought these issues to light that the practice was finally reformed.  The practice still remains in affect however, at the residential Judge Rotenberg Rehabilitation Center for people with developmental disabilities, of which the United States Congress has only recently, with the help of autistic activists such as Lydia Brown and Ari Ne’eman, started to investigate.
#6 Asperger syndrome is NOT conducive to social and emotional immaturity.

Dr. Laurent Mottron, a Canada-based psychiatrist specializing in autism, has listed “Six Traits of Asperger Perfection.”  They are:
                How many of your average drunken frat boys can be described like this?
#7 Non-verbal autistics can communicate and often times lead fully independent or semi-independent lives.

Autistic people such as Amanda Baggs and Amy Sequinza (in the picture above) are non-speaking autistics who speak very well for themselves.  Sequinza is a poet and writer who was interviewed with Ariane Zurcher in The Huffington Post.  I am in fact Facebook friends with Sequinza and she has even messaged me personally, in which I found her communication via social media to be far more articulate and eloquent than many speaking neurotypical people.  Baggs meanwhile has produced a video called In My Own Language, in which she communicates very effectively and clearly the meaning behind her so-called “mysterious” hand-flapping and stimming, which inspired autism specialists to reexaminewhat they know about autism. 
#8 Autistic People do not like to be portrayed as puzzle pieces.
I am not a puzzle. I am a person. Respect autists now.
For many autistics, the puzzle piece symbolizes autism (and by extension autistic people) to be confusing and impossible to understand, when in fact autistic people have been explaining their various behaviors through pamphlets, music, social media, and other means for over a decade, though few outsiders cared to listen or even know that they were publicizing this information.  To many, this puzzle piece is a symbol of autism/autistics through the myopic understanding of the neurotypical, thus deepening the view of autistics that the medically-modeled, neurotypical dominated world sees autistics as objects, not people.

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